IS, V1, Chapter 9: Business

The most important things in life are usually so boring that you wish it was possible to fast forward through them. Unfortunately, while I can skip over days, months or years when telling a story… it wasn’t so simple in reality.

My head was always in so much agony, even with water magic… I usually ended up making it worse. How long do horns and teeth take to grow? I had no idea.

Well, I couldn’t just go to sleep until the pain stopped, there was work to do.

I never teach blood or illusion magic to anyone, ever. Sure, I might show people how to defend against them, but they were far too easily abused.

There are many spells and techniques that give you control over another person’s free will. Which meant that my first law, thou shalt not enslave, could be easily broken.

Luckily, they’re both extremely difficult to learn and nearly impossible to master, unless you have a couple thousand very long lifetimes.

However, there are plenty of people who will sacrifice a little bit of freedom, for power, wealth, happiness or safety. That was the key to my biggest problem regarding distribution of firearms.

At the time, there was only one in existence and I was the only person who could even make ammunition for it. However, I couldn’t take any chances… so I created a safety mechanism.

Another blood magic encryption, minus the traps, but basically, only someone with my spell written on their bodies could actually use that rifle. Including myself, there were currently only four people in that whole world.

It was a rather complicated procedure for those three, because they each had some deficiency or curse that needed to be fixed. For my future soldiers, the spell would be much simpler and relatively easy.

Trust is difficult to earn, even if you can telepathically scan someone’s mind. It’s much more convenient to create a blood seal that prevents them from harming me and everyone else with my blood magic in their bodies.

In that way, they could wield my weapons and gain immense power, that couldn’t be used against me or my family and friends. They wouldn’t be able to do anything as complicated as read my notebook… but they could use a gun.

My first recruit was Beatrix Aust, a captain in the Rat District royal guard. She was actually on both hunting expeditions with me and was an excellent marksman.

Even during that first battle, she was completely calm and composed while accurately firing arrows at the magical beasts she had seen for the first time. The contract was simple, like a deal with the devil… except a bit less severe.

More like an oath, while placing her palm against mine she said “I, Beatrix Aust, resign my position as royal guard captain for Nadja Giese and the Rat District. From this moment forward, I swear to adhere to and uphold your two laws. Thou shalt not enslave and thou shalt not rape. I promise that I will not use my newly gained power against you or anyone who carries your blood.” in a very serious voice.

After that, the spell took effect and on the back of her left hand appeared a permanent tattoo. It was basically just the number 777 with an ouroboros around it.

In the event that her hand was cut off or destroyed, the tattoo would move to the center of her chest. If her hand was healed or grew back, the mark would return to where it was.

Of course, she was free to choose… I didn’t force her to accept the seal. Hell, Beatrix repeated the damn oath at least 5 times because she kept saying the sentences out of order.

There was plenty of time for her to make up her mind, but the moment I even mentioned to her that I was forming an army, she immediately volunteered. I explained that it wasn’t a decision she should make so easily, but it was something she had apparently been waiting for since I gave that speech.

When she fired her first bullet that night, Beatrix was amazed but I was impressed as well. I expected her aim to be pretty good, but it was like a natural instinct for her.

I created stone disks and threw them into the air like clay pigeons. The recoil surprised her, but she was able to hit at 4/6 pretty quickly.

The accuracy of the rifle was still a little off, but she definitely had the potential of a sniper. Ailyn and Ethir were there as well, she was taking notes and he was simply observing from a tree.

I was busy scribbling down some blueprints for a few other, relatively simple but still effective firearms. The main problem was in the scale, since dwarves, goblins and rat tribe were all extremely small.

Black powder gives a much larger recoil than smokeless, so I had to limit everything to not only small caliber, but also to fit into their tiny hands. Normally, a .22 revolver could hold up to 12 bullets, but the most I could fit was 7.

Until we were able to produce huge quantities of gunpowder and bullets, semi-auto spring loaded guns were a bit out of reach. It wasn’t that we couldn’t make them, just that I wanted to ease our way into it.

Basically, I wanted to have each of the most generic firearms. The rifle design needed a bit of tweaking and it could be converted into a sniper rifle, shotgun, or pistol.

All of the plans were written down in my notebook, which I made a copy of, for Ailyn to keep. When she saw the research notes on gunpowder, she made a “I can’t believe I couldn’t figure out something that was so simple!” face and then sighed.

There were various types of bullets, magnums had more gunpowder, hollow points would do more soft tissue damage, armor piercing was a bit obvious, and buckshot was a bunch of tiny ball bearings that spread out as they traveled farther. Personally, I liked designing projectiles much more than the weapons themselves.

However, I truly loathed the actual creation process… which was why I had Ailyn. Unfortunately, there was no possible way for just the two of us to work fast enough.

There were already plenty of strange rumors about how I was buying such huge quantities of food preservative, charcoal, alchemy ingredients and various metals. About a week after I gave my mark to her, Ailyn accidentally told a certain person about the truth to those rumors.

It was the middle of the night and I was taking a nice relaxing bath, alone, when she showed up. Lorelei plopped down next to me, splashing a decent amount of fur and water into my face.

She yelled “Mikey! It’s been a while! How have you been? So anyway… I want in.” in a loud, squeaky voice, while wearing nothing but a rather sinister smile.

I sighed and said “Who else knows?” in an irritated voice as I glared at her.

She laughed and yelled “How stupid do you think I am!? Why the fuck would I go around spreading such lucrative information?! I’m the only person Ailyn even talks to besides you! Anyway, no point wasting time, I want to be your business partner!” in an excited voice while splashing around while trying to swim.

It wasn’t a particularly surprising turn of events, especially after she told me her dream of basically being the richest person in the world during our second hunting trip together. She was a smart kid, hell, I didn’t even think about building a huge shopping mall on the surface.

Maybe I was just too jaded after so many lifetimes, but somewhere along the line, I just stopped caring about monetary wealth. It was refreshing to see someone, so enthusiastic and naive.

I didn’t even have to think about it, I simply said “Fine, here, bite down.” as I reached out and stuck my right hand into her mouth and used the other one to force it shut.

Her fangs tried to inject me with poison, but I didn’t let any of it enter my blood stream. After a few seconds the spell took effect and I removed my hand from her mouth.

She yelled “What the hell are you doing?! Damn it! Why did you make me kill you?!” in an angry voice, and didn’t notice her white fur turning black for a few moments.

I looked her in the eyes and said “Do you really think that I’m so easy to kill? Anyway, you have my mark now, so we’re officially business partners. Please stop freaking out.” in an irritated voice while waiting for her to calm down.

Then began her long winded speech about her plans regarding our newly founded company.

“First of all, we need minions… I mean workers. You and Ailyn shouldn’t be wasting your time trying to mass produce the weapons and ammunition. We need to recruit at least 5 alchemists and 15 blacksmiths immediately.

You should be able to use some kind of spell to keep our employees from stealing and selling our secrets. Either that, or we could just threaten to kill em the old fashioned way. I saw you kill over 700 people without flinching, I doubt you would lose sleep over a couple of traitors.

Anyway, our second problem is acquisitioning a huge amount of property. Normally, we would have to buy a house or land from the previous owner but nearly 80% of the goblin district is vacant.

Technically, it belongs to their matriarch, but since you pretty much gave her that position, I’m sure she will be happy to let us build our base there. I want to take the entire slums and have it made into a single, enclosed structure, completely under our control.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a market to sell properties at the moment. Otherwise, I would have told Ailyn to sell her shop and I would have sold mine as well. I’m not particularly wealthy at the moment, but I can definitely afford to pay the masons and carpenters to construct our new workplace.

Another issue we need to deal with is the recently unsealed mines. If I was by myself, I would have had to use money to claim them. However, not only are you powerful by yourself, pretty soon you’re going to have a whole damn army.

All you have to do is say they belong to you and the matter is settled, no one would be stupid enough to fight you for it. Miners are a different story, we need to either pay them or let them keep a portion of what they dig.

You mentioned in your speech that you wanted to have an alternate way to reach the surface. Well, this is a secret that very few people still know about, but the ancient labyrinth is basically a series of hallways and staircases that leads deep into Lorthon Forest.

That’s the reason it’s so dangerous and filled with magical beasts, they wander in and can’t find their way out. If we can clear it out while mapping our way through, we will own the safest caravan route possible!

Not to mention all the ancient treasures that are hidden throughout the secret chambers. After making it as safe as possible, we should start turning the labyrinth into a second city!

Although, it’s going to be expensive and difficult to build a fortress in the third ring of Lorthon Forest. I told you about this before, but we really should have a huge castle around the main entrance to the city.

It would just be much more convenient if there was a place to trade with the rest of the continent that was above ground. It would be expensive though, but if we owned it… so much potential profit.

Oh yea! Those ostriches that you have! You can’t just keep them in the palace courtyard! As soon as they start breeding, they’re going to need a huge amount of land to live on!

The squirrel tribe have nothing better to do, so we should officially make them citizens of Black Mithril. Then we can create a huge fence around their patch of Oak trees and get them to take care of the ostriches for us.

I’m pretty good friends with their chieftain’s daughter, so you probably won’t have to threaten them or anything like that. They have no concept of money, which is fortunate for us because considering everything else we have to do, we can’t really afford to pay them.

It’s not like they would be slaves or anything like that, just volunteers. Eventually, we should start recruiting some of them into your army… those fluffy bastards are really strong.

Anyway, we obviously can’t just sell the guns to everyone, so our main source of profit will have to be some of Ailyn’s other products. Did you know that she can actually create devices that tell you what time of day it is on the surface?

Everyone will want at least one of those and we will make a fortune off of it. A normal blacksmith won’t be able to make them properly though, so we need to hire a lot of apprentices and give them special training.

Luckily, they won’t really expect to be paid until they actually start working for us. Ailyn has a couple of other inventions that would be just as lucrative if we market them properly.

Some of the things I’ve seen in her storeroom have so much potential, yet she doesn’t even try to sell them.”

The speech didn’t end there, she continued to talk as she followed me out of the bath and into my bedroom. Rae and Ethir had their own separate rooms, so they were spared the three hours of squeaking before Lorelei finally passed out mid sentence.

I was actually amazed at how well thought out her plans were, but my aching head and teeth made it difficult to think about anything. The bed was so gigantic that regardless of how much she tossed and turned in her sleep, I was completely safe on my side.

After spending the whole second hunting trip, sharing a tent with her… I was used to Lorelei’s violent sleeping habits. One time she actually sank her poisonous fangs into my arm, I almost died.

At first I thought it was Rae, because she used to bite me in her sleep sometimes. By the time I realized what was happening, my whole arm felt like it was on fire and if I had waited a few seconds longer to remove the tainted blood… I probably would have had to amputate it.

She always seemed so happy or excited during the day, but when she was sleeping it was completely different. One of the main problems with being a telepath or empath, is that you can’t turn it off while you’re unconscious.

I had seen Rae’s nightmares for 7 years and I knew that deep down, all she could feel was rage. At first she was just sad and terrified but the past few years she was just dreaming of revenge.

Regardless of how kind and loving she was towards me, under the surface was a raging inferno fueled by pure hatred. I didn’t know when, but eventually she wouldn’t be able to keep her head above the boiling tides.

Ethir was much simpler, he was actually happy and content. Since he met us, his entire life had gained purpose and aside from the occasional fantasy where Raelin was torturing him… his inner psyche was pretty normal.

Lorelei had many dreams where she was brutally murdering her parents, me, Ailyn, and several other people who she was close to. She would be crying and screaming at herself to stop, but there was nothing she could do.

A giant snake like monster, similar to a lamia, would use her tail to crush me… while sinking her fangs into my neck. Her talons would tear at my flesh and tear out my organs before she devoured them in front of me.

The whole time a tiny little white mouse would be squeaking and crying on my shoulder. If I was awake, I would have been able to comfort her and control the flow of the dream sequence.

Well, it wasn’t really that bad… it was actually more pleasant than it sounds. I’ve learned something over my many lifetimes, I have an unusually high tolerance for pain.

Aches are much different, I can’t turn them off and there was another aspect that I was starting to worry about. My mana pool was unstable, ever since those damn horns started growing I was losing control of my magic.

Using it was easy, the problem was that I was starting to cast spells unconsciously. It was the main reason I was happy that Lorelei finally asked to work with me.

I had to leave before the worst case scenario happened and she gave me the perfect excuse. There were still a few things that had to be done, but I knew that I had at least a week.

The most important things were the blood seals. It barely took a drop of my blood to cast such simple spells and it didn’t even have to be fresh.

After draining at least enough blood for a couple hundred weapons into a large pitcher, I dehydrated it into a powder. Then I used the spell on that powder and all Ailyn had to do was place one flake inside of the guns handle while assembling.

If she ended up making more guns than that before I returned, there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Just like Lorelei suggested, Lachel was happy to give the slums to me. After that we had to find some of the last few dark dwarven architects left in the city.

Most of them were drunks or vagrants squatting in abandoned houses. Obviously, in a city that had literally no expansion for hundreds of years, it was a terrible job so it was usually impossible to make any money.

They had ancient techniques, passed down through their families for generations but the ones who weren’t completely broke, usually worked simple jobs doing menial tasks. They all jumped at the opportunity we were offering and practically worked for free.

The construction workers were in a similar position, but they did occasionally get hired to repair damaged buildings, like the dark dwarven palace. However, between the masons, architects and everyone else involved in the process, Lorelei ended up paying about 2 gold.

That was including the people we hired to fence off the huge Oak tree grove that the squirrel tribe lived in. They were surprisingly open to the idea, since it gave them a sense of security… even though they could easily escape from anything that couldn’t get past a simple fence.

I went with Lorelei to help convince their chieftain, but I was mostly just making sure she made it there and back safely. Since I couldn’t actually speak their language, she translated everything.

Apparently, they were actually happy to raise the ostriches. They were apparently, very bored and had nothing better to do.

It was fortunate for us, because the eggs and meat would eventually be a stable food supply for the city. The squirrel tribe’s diet mainly consisted of acorns and other nuts or berries… they were herbivores.

Before we left, Lorelei convinced 37 squirrel tribe to come with us back to the city. Some of them were children, but they were mostly adolescents.

They came to go sightseeing, but I knew what she was really planning. The adults were far too rigid and set in their ways, their culture was very pacifistic.

However, Lorelei could sell anything… even a way of life. It helped that she was about their age, but she probably could have convinced the chieftain himself to start a war against the wood elves, if she really wanted to.

I was a little surprised when she told me that the children were actually coming to learn magic from Rae. Not all of the adolescents wanted to become soldiers though, some were interested in learning various crafts.

There were many females who were interested in clothing, but they wanted to learn how to design clothes specifically for squirrel tribe. Of course, Lorelei didn’t miss the obvious opportunity to enter the textile industry.

A couple of them wanted to become watchmakers after meeting Ailyn, others were simply interested in the city lifestyle. Nadja gave each of them their own small houses in the Rat District, to promote a good relationship between their two races.

The potential soldiers weren’t completely sure of what they wanted, so I didn’t give them the mark. However, I wasn’t sure if the technique would even work… the language barrier was pretty rough.

There was a certain weapon I saw in Ailyn’s shop that I thought would be perfect for the squirrel tribe. It’s basically a chain-scythe, or sickle attached to a strong steel wire that was long enough that they could decapitate someone while never actually having to fight them.

Since they could jump from tree to tree so quickly, it would have been a simple matter to hide out of sight and then either impale them or amputate a limb before their target even knew what was happening.

Ailyn had throwing stars, knives, needles, darts, and spikes, she must have went through a ninja phase for a while because there were even swords that looked like katanas. However, that was convenient because I didn’t even have to think of it myself.

When we went to the surface and let the squirrels try out the various weapons, even I was surprised at their agility and dexterity. I was amazed that they could move so swiftly through the air without using wind magic.

I’m pretty sure they were originally a type of flying squirrel, because they could literally glide through the air between trees. I was slightly worried that they might accidentally hurt themselves or each other while swinging around those wire-scythes so recklessly.

However, even after hours of them playing around, no one was hurt and their accuracy was steadily improving. They were practically magical beasts, but with the intelligence to match any other humanoid.

Watching them was stressful, but actually made me happy for some strange reason. Ailyn probably would have felt the same way, but she was busy showing the squirrels how to make watches.

I said showing, because they didn’t speak the same language. All she could do was build one in front of them, take it apart and then let them try.

When Lorelei saw how simple and effective the throwing weapons were, she immediately wanted to start selling them as one of our main products. There were plenty of fletchers and bow makers, but blacksmiths rarely made ranged weapons.

After that experience, they were much more interested in becoming soldiers in my army. They joined in a probationary capacity, but they wouldn’t truly know if they had what it takes until they actually entered combat and survived a battle.

However, by the middle of the week, Beatrix had assembled 30 Rat Tribe, 10 Dark Dwarves and 5 Red Goblins who wished to join. I made her the general in charge of my very small army and gave her permission to decide their ranks herself, since I had no idea who most of them were.

I realized that if I wasn’t there, it would have been impossible to give new soldiers the mark. Basically, I had to enhance her seal a bit, giving her the ability to make the contract without me.

There’s a huge difference between teaching someone blood magic and letting them clone a spell. She wouldn’t have been able to give it to someone against their will and even if she used it on the whole city, the worst thing that could happen was that no one would be able to rape, murder, enslave or harm each other in any way.

They each made the contract without hesitation, but I made sure to tell them exactly what upholding my laws meant. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t break the laws, they weren’t allowed to watch others commit those two crimes either.

If they saw a slave, they had to kill their master and either kill the slave or set them free. If they even just knew about someone being raped or who had been raped, it was their job to punish the offender.

There were no exceptions to those rules, regardless of who the criminal was, their death was already decided. They were similar to a police force while stationed within the city, so they dealt with other crimes as well.

Murder was a death sentence if proven guilty. Theft wasn’t such a big deal, the price for the crime was double the cost of the stolen item. If they couldn’t pay, then they worked for us until they could afford to pay the person back.

Assault and similar crimes all depending on the severity, obviously sexual assault was a death sentence. Prostitution actually wasn’t that big of a problem in Black Mithril, perhaps because of the matriarchal culture.

However, in a world where every std was a potential plague or curse… I wanted to make sure people understood that prostitution was a bad idea. It was a three strikes principle, the first two times were simple warnings, the third strike was death.

Each matriarch agreed with my new laws, but it wasn’t like we had prisons. There were three very small dungeons and one of them had a torture chamber, I executed the guy who did that job on principle.

The job description of a torturer included various forms of rape, his death was very… slow. One of the cruelest ways to use blood or illusion magic was to show a person their worst fears and every terrible thing they could possible imagine.

You don’t even have to do anything to them, just trap their minds in a hell of their own creation. Often they experience thousands of years, when in reality only minutes had passed. Eventually, they break and die.

On the sixth day, I knew that my time was up. I gathered Rae, Ethir, Ailyn, Lorelei, Nadja and even Beatrix together in the conference room of the Rat Palace to explain the situation.

After they all sat on one side of the very long table, I sat down on the other. After clearing my throat, I said “I’m sure most of you have noticed by now, but I’ve been in a lot of pain lately. Not just that, but I can barely control my mana anymore.

Lorelei, calm down, you can talk after I’m finished. Anyway, it’s far too dangerous for me to stay here any longer. That doesn’t mean I won’t return, just that I have to leave for a while.

No Rae, I know what you want to say, but you can’t come with me. It’s going to be rough, but Ethir’s blood will have to be enough, until I return.

If it comes down to it, I’m sure Ailyn tastes fine as well. Just try not to make a habit of eating your students… literally and metaphorically.

Lorelei, I’m not afraid to admit that you are much better at dealing with money than me. I don’t really have that much gold, but I’m sure you can probably make good use of it.

Ethir, I know you haven’t really stolen anything in a while and that’s probably a good thing. You’re a smart and talented kid, but you’re weak.

There comes a time when you have to be strong, or terrible things will happen to the ones you love. I might not be there to save you next time, you have the potential to be a mage, but it would take many years and I doubt you will have so much time to prepare.

Ailyn, give the first pistol you make to him, I have a feeling he will need it soon. I’m sure Rae senses it as well, maybe you all do, but I probably won’t be here to save anyone this time.

Nadja, thank you for letting us stay here with you, it was so much more comfortable than that cave and hovel we lived at before. In case we don’t meet again, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your pleasant company this past… nearly two months.

Beatrix, we’ve only known each other for a short time… but then again, it was pretty much the same way for everyone else, including my mother. I trust you to uphold my laws and protect Black Mithril in the event that anything happens.

All of you have so much work to do, but so do I. Which is why I feel so bad, leaving suddenly like this, but my body is changing and I have no idea how long it might take before I’ve stabilized.

I promise to return… as soon as possible, but sometimes these things don’t work out. Until you see me again, treat my business partner Lorelei’s decisions as my own.” in a sincere and worried voice as I spoke to each of them, like it was the last time we would ever see each other.

Immediately after I finished talking, Lorelei started yelling something I couldn’t quite understand. Rae was crying loudly while repeating “My baby is going to leave me again.” in a depressed voice.

Nadja was just smiling, Beatrix had her usual completely unfazed attitude, and Ethir was silent. Ailyn was asking me if she could keep my notebook while smiling and I whispered “I’m glad I was able to meet you again, Azriel…” while looking directly at her.

Fortunately, the noise in the room was far too loud for anyone to hear me. It’s always difficult seeing an old friend, when they don’t even recognize you anymore.

Well, it was better that way… memories like the ones we shared were far too painful and dangerous. The moment I saw her on that stage, I started to remember the others.

If two of us were in the same world, it meant that the rest of them were probably there as well. Although, I could have missed them by a few thousand years… I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

While I was contemplating that, the pain in my head surged and I lost control of my mana for an instant. There was a loud *Boom* and everyone was silent, the flash of light had blinded them as well.

My ears were ringing and luckily no one was actually struck by the lightning that erupted from my tail. There were scorch marks all across the wall behind me and several parts were even on fire.

I looked into Rae’s eyes and mouthed “I love you, Mother.” before vacating the room, everyone was too stunned, deafened or blinded to notice me leaving except her.

She was reaching out towards my direction while struggling to walk, but I was gone before she could try to stop me. After exiting the room, I started using wind magic to fly… very quickly.

I had no time to bring anything with me, the metal palace doors were easy to open with earth magic, even while flying with wind. Well, it’s possible to fly using any of the main elements… wind was just easiest for me at the time.

As soon as I emerged from the palace, sparks started jumping off my body and my clothes burst into flames. It didn’t even hurt, but once again, I was flying over that pyramid completely naked.

I looked around Black Mithril one last time before diving down, towards that same spot again. This time there was no dragon blocking my path, the gates were still busted open.

It was complete darkness, until electricity started firing off in every direction from my body. Then I lost control of my mana completely and couldn’t propel my body using wind any longer.

When I fell to the ground and looked around, there were seven pathways… I figured since that was the case, the third from the left was probably the one I wanted.

Well, it was not only the largest tunnel, but the walls seemed to be completely smooth, metallic and flat. The opening was square and I could feel an extremely ominous presence far outside my view.

Lightning crackled through the air around me and I felt like my skin was freezing, while my blood was boiling. My head and gums ached so damn much, but I continued walking forward through the tunnel that was being sporadically illuminated.

If I had epilepsy, I probably would have died pretty quickly, but I wasn’t even sure if my race could develop such an illness. The air around my body was freezing and the walls, floor and ceiling of the silvery metallic tunnel were rippling as I steadily advanced.

My mana pool was so unstable that I couldn’t even tell how much I had left. When the electrical discharge stopped, my body and the air around me began to grow incredibly cold.

It was completely dark in front of me, but there was still a very dim light in the distance behind. Right when I was about to be in complete darkness, the air around my body began glowing from a blue light.

My skin was luminescent, bright enough that I could see pretty far ahead in such a reflective environment. I preferred not to use nature magic like that, since there are usually side effects and fire magic is much easier.

However, I had no control over what spells I was casting. Fortunately, my mana did seem to be calming down, or perhaps just running out.

After walking for what was probably 12 hours, my skin stopped glowing and I was completely exhausted. In total darkness, I collapsed onto the cold, metal floor and lost consciousness.

Miles away from anyone else for the first time since I was born into that world, I saw a dream that was actually my own. There was a beautiful little girl wearing a pure white dress, with very pale light skin, long elven ears and six huge white, angelic dove-like wings coming out of her back.

She smiled at me with her bright blue eyes glistening in the morning sun and her pure white, long and wavy hair was blowing around, from a warm summer breeze. We were standing in the middle of a barren wasteland with nothing but cracked earth and sun bleached gigantic bones in every direction.

I smiled back at her and said “Helel?” in a voice much deeper than I was used to hearing.

The girl pouted and yelled “Daddy! You know you aren’t supposed to say that name!” in an angry voice while stomping on the ground, creating a massive earthquake.

I laughed lightheartedly, then said “I’m sorry Lucy, when you get to be as old as your father, you’ll understand how hard it is to remember so many names.” in a happy voice.

She sighed dramatically and then jumped up to hug me, flapping her wings a few times before smacking into my cold, black, metallic chest. Lucy giggled as she rubbed her face against the armor, then said “I love you daddy, but you know why I had to kill you, right?” in a sad voice, while looking up at me.

I sighed, then said “You know I never remember such silly things. I probably deserved it, or maybe I didn’t… doesn’t really matter now. Ah, it seems like our time here is up.” in a tired reverberated voice.

She started crying and yelled “Please come back and see me again soon!” in a sad voice as the sun was blotted out and everything became completely dark.

I was freezing cold, laying on the metallic ground of that tunnel… I had no idea which direction I was supposed to be going anymore. My head still hurt, my teeth still hadn’t grown back in and I was starving.

My instincts told me to keep walking, so I did. Eventually, my body started firing off lightning again and I realized that I wasn’t in a tunnel anymore.

It was called a labyrinth after all, of course there would be traps. I was in a huge circular room, the walls were green and scaly and moving.

Every time the electricity touched the walls that were closing in around me, they quickly retreated. The shiny metallic ceiling was much higher than the rounded partition, but I couldn’t use wind magic.

I followed my instincts and kept walking, as I approached them, the walls slithered forward across the ground with each step. I was curious how such a gigantic snake ended up in that labyrinth, but it didn’t really matter.

If I could have just controlled my magic, I probably could have killed it and had a delicious meal. While fantasizing about how amazing it would taste, suddenly the scaly green barriers disappeared into the darkness in front of me.

Finally, it started… the transformation, the tips of my horns had pierced through my skin and I could feel all of the electrical energy building up around them. It felt like my skull was going to explode from the pressure in my sinuses.

I had to close my eyes because it was so bright in that extremely spacious hallway. The ground was rumbling, a high pitched screeching noise was resonating inside my mind, and my heart was beating so fast that time seemed to slow down.

All of my muscles were spasming at once, even my internal organs felt like they were violently being torn apart. I was so hungry, that was all I could think about as felt my teeth start to steadily emerge from my gums.

There was a loud *Boom* as the ground stopped shaking, my body stopped writhing and the pressure in my forehead was released. I could see, but not with my eyes that were closed, there was another one that’s lids opened up horizontally between my frontal sinus cavities.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief as I rolled over and looked at myself, using the highly reflective ground. Luckily, it didn’t look stupid since the eye was vertical, with a relatively normal, circular iris.

It was a luminescent golden color, similar to Ethir’s, and it seemed like the air was glowing around me. When I closed it and opened my other eyes, I couldn’t see anything… it was completely dark.

That’s when I realized, I could see mana… with one eye. Well, it was convenient since I was in an environment with no light source and my mana was still incredibly unstable.

My horns and teeth had just started to emerge, but there was no way to know how long it could take. Even if I did bring anything with me, it would have just been destroyed by then.

I had no idea how long I could go without food or water before dying, so I needed to keep walking. The direction that was brighter, had denser mana, so that was the direction I went.

While wandering through the brightly illuminated labyrinth, I started to notice that the huge pathway was veering slightly to the right. Which made sense, since the tunnel was to the north of the city, if my destination was deep within the third ring, I would have to eventually go east.

I started to hear someone screaming, far into the distance, it echoed around for a few seconds and then stopped. When I finally reached the source of the sound, there was a pile of meat, blood, bone and torn cloth with a faint glimmer of mana.

I immediately looked up and saw a large hole in the ceiling, closing slowly, while making a loud squeaking sound. The remains were of an adult female elf, any more than that was impossible to discern from the scattered and pulverized pieces.

That’s what happens when something falls about a mile, without any air resistance. Well, her loss was my dinner… it wasn’t cannibalism.

We weren’t even the same species… probably.

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